VIDEO: Tortilla 101

Alex Stupak, chef of Empellon in NYC, says tortilla making is more of a method than a recipe and I can't agree more. Tortillas are essential to authentic Mexican cuisine and they may seem simple, but mastering their texture and nuances has taken me years. My family made flour (harina) tortillas when I was growing up and we sometimes made maiz (corn). So when I went on this endeavor, I was like a fish out of water. I spoke with the tortilla flipping ladies of Mexico City and Oaxaca and finally at Casa Oaxaca, one of my best dining experiences I've ever had, the tortilla lady let me ask her questions that solved everything. I'm sharing those tips below.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 parts Maseca
  • 1 part water (hot water)
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. In a bowl mix the masa and hot water for five minutes until well combined. These portions can change if the dough is too dry. You are going to have to do this many times to get the consistency right. Cover with a damp towel and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
  2. On the highest heat possible, place a comal over the open flame. Let the comal get very, very, hot. Meanwhile press the first tortilla in a tortilla press.
  3. Lay the tortilla on the comal and allow it to cook until the sides lift off the surface. Flip the tortilla and allow it to cook for another 45 seconds. Flip it a third time until the tortilla puffs, or fills with air. Immediately remove from heat and place in a basket or between two towels to stay warm. Serve as soon as possible.

*DISCLAIMER: In my video the tortillas did not puff. Due to technical difficulties, the gas on my portable stove top did not have enough BTUs to get hot enough.